Gloomy weather, but the river is calm on this October 29th as I embark on the Grand Fleuve for a whale-watching excursion.

Shortly after we leave, we start seeing a few minke whales around the mouth of the Saguenay River and further off of Tadoussac. Along the way, we also cross paths with ten belugas and two fin whales that were not very active (resting, probably)…

Then I spot another blow in the distance. As I look through the binoculars, I first think I am observing two humpback whales in front of each other before I start focussing on the dorsal fin. It is then that I start to realize that I am in the presence of a sperm whale!

As we get closer, my doubts start to disappear: a powerful blow slanted to the left (a sperm whale’s blowhole is positioned towards the left), characteristic dorsal fin, wrinkles on the skin of the back and the animal looking like it comes from an ancient time.

We are now in front of the dunes of Tadoussac as we admire this impressive being.

During our short encounter with this whale it did not bring its tail out of the water. It had long breathing sequences: between 10 and 15 blows, followed by 10-15 minutes of rather shallow dives.

A sperm whale was also seen earlier this summer. Is this the same animal? We will find out after analyzing the photos of the dorsal fin.

Nonetheless, it is a very rare visitor in our area and one that left me with an unforgettable outing to the open sea.

A sperm whale
© Renaud Pintiaux
A sperm whale
Sperm whales have dark, wrinkled skin on their backs. © Renaud Pintiaux
A sperm whale
© Renaud Pintiaux
A sperm whale
Because of the shape of the head, a sperm whale sometimes looks like there are two whales together. © Renaud Pintiaux
A sperm whale
As you can see, a sperm whale has a left-positioned blowhole. © Renaud Pintiaux
A sperm whale
As you can see, a sperm whale has a left-positioned blowhole. © Renaud Pintiaux
A sperm whale
The dunes of Tadoussac are starting to be covered in snow. © Renaud Pintiaux
A sperm whale
Sperm whales can measure between 11 to 15 metres in length. © Renaud Pintiaux
A sperm whale
Sperm whales can have breathing sequences that include over 30 blows. © Renaud Pintiaux
A sperm whale
Sperm whales are capable of emitting a wide range of sounds (rattling, pulsing and squeaking) in the depths as well as on the surface. © Renaud Pintiaux
Field Notes - 30/10/2018

Renaud Pintiaux

GREMM research assistant from 2003 to 2009 and from 2012 to 2014, Renaud Pintiaux is a passionate observer and photographer. Year round, whether from shore or on the water, he takes every opportunity to observe marine mammals and birds in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park.

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